Winter is coming- and so is the holiday season! This weekend marks the beginning of the Christmas season! Check out our picks for getting your cheer on this weekend!

The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival is back! This is the perfect way to kick off the holiday season- with a memorable display of lights along the main thoroughfare in downtown Chicago. Over a million lights illuminate the Magnificent Mile during this family-friendly event, featuring Mickey and Minnie Mouse as parade grand marshals. The festivities begin tonight at 4 pm, with more than a dozen family-friendly events, live music, and a visit from Santa Claus! There will also be delicious holiday treats from Connie’s Pizza, Garret’s Popcorn, The Eli’s Cheesecake Company, and more. The festivities continue tomorrow at 11 am- with a full lineup of events during the day! The parade begins at 5:30 pm, stepping off from Oak Street and North Michigan Avenue. Check out the full schedule here!

Tonight is the 104th Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony! This is a Chicago tradition- a giant, glittering tree set among Chicago’s skyline, nestled in Millennium Park. Chicago’s 104th Christmas tree was donated by Darlene Dorfler of Grayslake, Illinois. The huge 62-foot Norway spruce was selected out of 71 submissions! The ceremony will be led by WGN’s Demetrius Ivory and Erin Ivory. There will also be a special appearance by Mr. And Mrs. Claus! Admission to the Tree Lighting Ceremony is free and begins at 6 pm.

Today is the first day of Chriskindlmarket! This has been one of Chicago’s favorite Christmas traditions since 1996. This year Chriskindlmarket has 3 different locations: Daley Plaza, Naperville, and The Park at Wrigley. The market offers a unique holiday shopping experience. There are handblown and painted ornaments, nutcrackers, cuckoo clocks, beer steins, and more! There is also a variety of food and beverage options, including beer and wine, baked cheese, Austrian strudel, schnitzel, curry fries, and much more! Admission to the market is free and it’s open daily! Hours are Sundays through Thursdays from 11 am to 8 pm and Fridays and Saturdays from 11 am to 9 pm. 

The McCormick Tribune Ice Rink opens today! Located in Millenium Park, the rink opens at noon and will remain open until Sunday March 4, 2018. Skating is free and open to the public! Skate rentals are available for $12 Mondays through Thursdays and $14 Fridays through Sundays (and on holidays). Hours are Mondays through Thursdays from noon to 8 pm, Fridays from noon to 10 pm, Saturdays from 10 am to 10 pm, and Sundays from 10 am to 9 pm. Find more detailed information about special holiday hours here.

Take your kiddos to Cookie Decorating Day tomorrow! Located at IRL on Level 3 of Water Tower Place, this is the perfect way to get into the spirit before the lights parade. Complimentary sugar cookies are provided, as well as decorating kits. There will also be complimentary personalized monogramming from home accessories brand Kassatex. Decorating is open from 11 am to 3 pm.


CHICAGO NEIGHBORHOOD NEWS: Lakeview, Bucktown and Wicker Park, Lincoln Park, South Loop, Andersonville, Oak Park

Lakeview: Ready to get your laugh on? Come on down to Hitch Cocktails at the Annoyance Theatre! The show runs every Friday at 10 pm until December 29. It starts with an audience suggestion, then the players create a full length thriller in the style of Alfred Hitchcock. The stage is complete with a wet bar and the actors are forced to partake as the plot develops! The show also features live music and parlor games, so the audience can have refreshments as well. General admission tickets are $20, $15 for students. Buy your tickets here now!

Bucktown and Wicker Park: Davenport’s Piano Bar and Cabaret is hosting a rockin’ Christmas show. Mark your calendar for “Mistletoe and Martinis” on December 15 at 8 pm. Jordan Von Haslow and Jennifer French are going to croon you into the Christmas spirit. In the spirit of the giving season, 2 U.S. Marines will collect Christmas toys before and after the show for “Toys for Tots”, for less fortunate children in Cook County. Bring at least one new, unwrapped toy, and get ready to sing along to your favorite holiday songs! Buy your tickets now!

Lincoln Park: One of Chicago’s favorite Christmas activities is back! Zoo Lights at the Lincoln Park Zoo is the perfect holiday event for the whole family. Zoo Lights opens on November 24! The lights are showing from November 24-26, December 1-3, 8-23, 26-31, and January 1-7. Hours are 4:30 to 9 pm. Festive activities include photos with Santa (through December 23), 3D displays, warm spiced wine and frosty lager, holiday snacks, holiday gift shopping, live ice-sculpture carving, musical light shows, and more! Find more information here.

South Loop: With the weather getting chillier, it’s the perfect time for a beer tour. Check out the Sin and Suds Beer Tour in the South Loop! A trained guide will lead you on a 1-1/2 mile walk through the Loop and South Loop neighborhoods. In 3 hours, you’ll learn about Chicago, beer, and taste some fantastic local brews. You’ll visit an old Chicago speakeasy and restaurant, one of the oldest bars in the city, a blues club started by Buddy Guy, and a new microbrewery. Find more information and buy your tickets here!

Andersonville: Come to a traditional Swedish Christmas dinner at the Swedish American Museum. Julmiddag, a festive Swedish smorgasbord will be served at the museum on December 17 at 5 pm. Children are invited to participate in a St. Lucia procession, there will be a special visit from Tomten, and dancing around the Christmas tree. Cost is $60 for members, $70 for non-members, $20 for children 12 and under, infants 12 months and under are free. RSVP by December 13 on the museum’s website or at the Museum. Prepaid and confirmed tickets are required. No refunds are available for cancellations with five days of the event.

Oak Park: Get into the holiday spirit at the Oak Park Conservatory’s Winter Greens Market! It’s the perfect place to find a hearty selection of winter greens for your home. An array of fresh greens are available, including balsam, fir, boxwood, winter berries, magnolia tips, and spruce tops. You can even drop off a container and have your arrangement done for you! Limited space is available- call 708-725-2400 to reserve a spot. The market opens on November 21 and is open during regular conservatory hours, Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 am to 4 pm. Find more information here!


Restaurant Review – Quiote

This week had me feeling a little more fancy! After the release of Michelin’s Bib Gourmand list in October, I couldn’t wait to try one of the restaurants. The Bib Gourmand is awarded to restaurants that provide high quality food for a good value. The designation is different than Michelin’s star awards, which are more prestigious. However, with such a competitive dining market in Chicago, the Bib Gourmand is a huge honor. I decided to try Quiote, a modern Mexican restaurant in Logan Square (2456 N. California Ave.) We started with cocktails at the Mezcal bar in the basement, called Todos Santos. The vibe downstairs is a little dark, but still friendly. We had a lovely time sitting at the bar, especially since we started with a flight of mezcal. The very knowledgeable staff walked us through four distinct types of mezcal from different regions of Mexico. They even left the bottles out for us so we could read more about each type. They also stopped back near the end of our flight to chat with us about our favorites and discuss the differences between each type. If you’re not a fan of straight mezcal, they also offer a good selection of cocktails that highlight their signature spirit. The restaurant upstairs is very open and bright, with a simple and inviting aesthetic. Sometimes, the chatter from other tables was a bit noisy, but it wasn’t terrible. The menu highlights upscale, but simple, takes on classic Mexican food. I ordered the Bone Marrow. Usually bone marrow is a bit gross to me, but I wanted to be adventurous. And I am so glad I was. The bone is sliced lengthwise, charred, and served with spectacular sourdough bread and avocado. It is absolutely fantastic. My friend ordered the Chicken en Mole and he said it was incredible. This dish features a deep and chocolatey mole that wonderfully complements the simplicity of the juicy chicken. I highly recommend Quiote. In an area with many heavy hitting restaurants, Quiote not only holds its own but sets the bar high for a great evening with wonderful Mexican food.

Quiote’s hours are Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays from 5 to 10:30 pm, Fridays and Saturdays from 5 to 11 pm, and Sundays from 5 to 10 pm. Lunch hours are Wednesdays through Fridays from 11 am to 3:30 pm. Brunch is served Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 2:30 pm. The restaurant is completely closed on Tuesdays. Todos Santos is open from 5 pm to 2 am, extending to 3 am on Saturdays. Find more information and make your reservation here.


Kathy’s Home & Garden Tips – Stress-Free Thanksgiving Part 2

I normally use a white board on my refrigerator for regular family schedules. And it’s great for large meal planning too! Schedule shopping trips and add notes like “Order turkey and pies!”  Or “Move turkey to fridge for thawing!” (you’ll need one day for every four pounds frozen) This way, you’ll see it every day. Your complete schedule is on your legal pad, of course. Following are tips and handy tricks to make the day go smoothly.

Set the table the day before and cover with a clean white sheet to prevent dust. This takes another task off your plate. Gather all serving pieces and utensils, as well as any cooking vessels. This prevents scrambling on the big day, trying to find a specific saucepan or serving dish. Refrigerator space will be at a premium on Thanksgiving. Use large coolers. Take all unnecessary items out and put in a cooler in the garage. Use another cooler for drinks, soda, and water for guests to serve themselves. Keep it near a small table set with glasses, wine, corkscrews, and ice in a bucket.

Use store-bought items when you can. I never bake dinner rolls anymore. They take up valuable oven space and even grocery store bakeries have better ones. Pies are another buy-ahead item, or you can ask guests to bring. Do you have guests that want to help? Ask them to bring a side or dessert that doesn’t need heating, or liquor or other drinks.

There are so many things you can do ahead of time, anywhere from one to three days ahead. Prep all vegetables up to two days early. Think about all the vegetables. The actual dishes can be done the day before, like roasted vegetables as well as crudité vegetables. But cooking veggies can be done ahead too. I sauté the stuffing vegetables day before. Peel potatoes too and keep in cold water. If you like, you can make the mashed potatoes the day before and refrigerate in a crock pot insert. Put a little melted butter and cream in the bottom, set on low to heat and hold. Make them a little stiff, add warm cream and butter before serving. Make dips and other appetizers. Use that microwave, it’s invaluable this time of year!

I bake my stuffing outside the turkey. I’ve seen too many warnings that stuffing in a turkey is dangerous. Unfortunately, to bring the stuffing to the proper temperature will overcook the turkey. I’m loving the slight crust the oven does on the stuffing. Make your stuffing moist as it will dry a little in the oven. When you are making the stuffing, remember it takes time for the bread to absorb the liquid. A note on that: all broth used should be no or low-sodium, so YOU control the salt. Only real cream and butter are allowed on Thanksgiving, you can diet next week. Tape your schedule and recipes on cabinet doors. Keeps everything at eye level for all to see. 

Remember that you are surrounded by family and friends. There will of course be something that will be a miss rather than a hit. But warm broth or gravy takes care of dry turkey and another cocktail will take care of most everything else. Take a deep breath, Thanksgiving dinner is most forgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Updates Your Home Will Need Over the Years – a Timeline


Every component in your home has a certain life expectancy, some longer than others. As a homeowner, you’ll find yourself repairing or replacing things in your home every so often – it’s just part of the deal.

Rather than being unpleasantly surprised with an unexpected repair or replacement, your best bet is to be prepared for what’s to come. The following is a rough timeline of when you can expect to make specific updates in your home as the months and years pass.

1-3 Months – Light Bulbs


Depending on the number and type of light bulbs you’ve got in your home, you’ll probably find yourself changing light bulbs all the time. When you replace one, another will go out, and the cycle continues.

The average incandescent light bulb lasts anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 hours (about one to three months or so). If you go with LED bulbs, that number will be drastically higher, as long as 50,000 hours. Not only will LED bulbs save you the time and hassle of changing light bulbs all the time, you’ll be paying for a lot less energy to power them.

3 Months – HVAC Filters

It’s recommended that homeowners change their HVAC filters approximately every 3 months or so. This is a rough number and will depend on a number factors, such as how clean they are, the durability of the mesh, and if there is anyone in the home who suffers from allergies. The 3-month mark is just a rough suggestion, but if you notice that the filter is pretty filthy and clogged, it’s definitely time to change it.

5-7 Years – Carbon Monoxide Detectors


Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that can be fatal if left to accumulate indoors. That’s why having a functioning CO detector is absolutely mandatory for keeping all occupants of your home safe. These detectors typically wear out in approximately 5 to 7 years, after which they should be replaced, ideally with a sensor that will alert you when a dangerously high level of carbon monoxide is present. At the very least, it’s important that the detector is monitored every few weeks to make sure it’s working and the batteries haven’t been depleted.

5-7 Years – Toilet Components

Tiolet bowls themselves should last a lifetime as long as they don’t crack or get damaged for whatever reason. However, many of their components will need to be replaced every 5 to 7 years, including the flappers, fill valves, trip levers, fittings, and plumbing connections.

10 Years – Smoke Detectors


Just like carbon monoxide detectors, smoke detectors are life-savers that absolutely need to be kept in proper functioning order at all times. Be sure to maintain your smoke alarms as per the manufacturer’s instructions and replace the batteries at least once a year. The smoke alarm itself will typically need to be replaced every 10 years or so.

10 Years – Carpets

If you’ve got any carpeting in your home, you should know that this type of flooring doesn’t last forever. The average medium-grade carpet material lasts about 10 years, depending on how well it’s taken care of, whether there are pets in the home, and the amount of foot traffic. If you notice any stains that won’t come out, rips or tears on the carpet fibers, foul odors, or poor condition of the underlying padding, the carpet will probably need to be replaced.

8-12 Years – Hot Water Tank


You can effectively extend the lifespan of your hot water tank if you take the time and effort to maintain it on a regular basis. That said, you can expect your hot water tank to last anywhere between 8 to 12 years. If yours reaches that age span and it starts giving you problems – such as a leak or failure to maintain regular water temperature – it’s probably time for a new one.

8-15 Years – Appliances

Your refrigerator, stove/oven, dishwasher, microwave, washer, and dryer all have finite lifespans and will need to be replaced anywhere between 8 to 15 years after being purchased new. More specifically, each appliance has their own approximate lifespan:

  • Refrigerator – up to 15 years
  • Stove/oven – 10 to 15 years
  • Dishwasher – 8 – 10 years (depending on frequency of usage)
  • Washer and dryer – 7 to 12 years

10-15 Years – Garage Door Opener


Garage door openers are super convenient and make life a lot easier. But the more often they’re used, the shorter their lifespan will typically be. The life of an automatic garage door is measured in cycles where opening and closing the door once is considered one cycle. Depending on how frequently your garage door is opened and closed, the opener should last approximately 10 to 15 years, and even longer if it’s well maintained.

10 Years – Garbage Disposals

As long as you’re using your garbage disposal properly, it should last for about 10 years. In addition to age, a garbage disposal might need to be replaced prematurely if it is frequently clogged, if food takes far too long to be broken down, or if there are any lingering smells that won’t disappear.

15-20 Years – HVAC Unit


Your heating and air-conditioning system is among the most important components of your home and is responsible for keeping the indoor air temperature comfortable. It works really hard around the clock, especially during times of the year when temperatures tend to hit extremes. As such, these systems don’t last forever. Depending on how hard the HVAC system is working and how well it’s maintained, the system should last between 15 to 20 years.

20-50 Years – Roof

Your roof is a key component of your home and is essential to its overall condition and longevity. All roofs should be inspected at least once a year in the spring to make sure there aren’t any issues with it that could compromise your home. The longer a problem is left to linger, the worse the condition the overall roof will be. Depending on the frequency of maintenance and the exact materials used, the average roof should last between 20 to 50 years.

The Bottom Line

Owning a home certainly comes with plenty of ongoing expenses and work. But knowing approximately when specific upgrades should be done can help you budget more appropriately. That way you can cut down on those unpleasant surprise bills when the end of the lifespan of each of your home’s components approaches.


To honor and remember those who have dedicated their lives to defending our freedom and civil liberties, Veterans Day (which falls on Saturday) is a time for all Americans to thank and honor those who have selflessly served in our military during wartime and peacetime!

The city of Chicago will honor local and national veterans at this year’s Veterans Day Ceremony being held at Soldier Field (1410 S. Museum Campus Dr., Gate O) in the South Loop at 11:00 a.m.  This ceremony includes a speaking program with the keynote address by The Honorable Ryan D. McCarthy who grew up in Glenview.  McCarthy proudly served in the U.S. Army from 1997 to 2002 and was involved in combat operations in Afghanistan.  Once again, this ceremony will take place in front of the Doughboy statue culminating with a wreath laying ceremony, a 21-gun salute, “Taps”, and the “Armed Forces Medley.”  For other Veterans Day Celebrations taking place in Chicago, click the link provided here!

After honoring our veterans, perhaps you would like to continue your weekend at one of these city events:

The following Macy’s Events will take place at the Macy’s on State Street (111 N. State St.) in The Loop this Saturday:  Family Fun Days (1:00 p.m., 5th Floor) where there will be face painting for the kids, balloon twisting, great music for the whole family, and a chance to make a take-home holiday craft; and Trim-A-Tree (2:00 p.m., 6th Floor) where you can learn how to decorate your holiday tree with festive lights, beautiful ornaments, garlands, and more. You can also enjoy some holiday music, sweet treats, a DIY station to create your very own holiday décor, and more!

This weekend only, the 13th annual Lycée Français de Chicago French Market will take place at the Lycée Français de Chicago (1929 W. Wilson Ave.) in the Lincoln Square neighborhood on Saturday & Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  It’s a weekend of French inspired shopping with over 60 local and French artisans selling decorative and fine art, wood works, jewelry, apparel, accessories, and more!  There’s also a ticketed ($45) Saturday evening party (7:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.) for a lively night of food, wine, and fashion. The soiree includes 8 tastings of regional wines, 5 tastings of Half Acre Beer, a selection of fine cheeses, charcuterie, dessert, and a raffle ticket that could win you two Soirée tickets, specialty wine, or a vendor gift basket!!

The German International School Chicago cordially invites children of all ages and backgrounds to its 10th annual Laternenfest & St. Martin’s Parade at the DANK-Haus (4740 N. Western Ave.) in the Lincoln Square neighborhood from 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. this Saturday.  This celebration of St. Martin’s Day will begin with lantern-making and other kid-friendly activities, continue with the lantern parade through Lincoln Square at dusk, and conclude with a brat dinner at the DANK-Haus around 6:00 p.m.!

Begin celebrating your holiday season at the Japanese American Service Committee’s Holiday Delight from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at 4427 North Clark Street (JASC) in the Uptown neighborhood.  It’s a Children’s Festival and Craft Bazaar (Kodomo Matsuri) which has something for everyone with great food, performances, vendors, and demonstrations of Japanese dance & drumming!  And, there’s even a pre-Christmas visit from Santa Claus!!

THANK YOU to All Veterans and Their Families for My Freedom!  May God Bless You All!!

CHICAGO NEIGHBORHOOD NEWS: Bucktown and Wicker Park, Lincoln Park, Lakeview, River North, Lincoln Square, Evanston

Bucktown and Wicker Park: Ever wanted to do a walking tour of Bucktown and Wicker Park? You’re in luck! Bizarre Bucktown Walking Tours offers you just that! This tour features information about the area’s history, neighborhood mysteries, and ghosts. Experience interactive mysteries, forgotten history, and surprising secrets, all expertly presented by a neighborhood local. Each walking tour covers about a mile and has plenty of leisurely stops. Find more information here!

Lincoln Park: Just because summer is over doesn’t mean there are no festivals to be found! This Saturday, November 11, check out the Chicago Tequila & Sangria Festival at Joe’s Bar. There are two sessions, the first from 12 to 3 pm and the second from 3:30 to 6:30 pm. The ticket includes admission to tasting event, a souvenir tasting glass, tastings of a variety of tequilas and sangrias, and entertainment. Other beverages and food from Joe’s Bar will also be available for purchase. Get your tickets here now!

Lakeview: For the first time, Chriskindlmarket is headed to The Park at Wrigley. The annual German Holiday Market started 21 years ago on Daley Plaza. Both Chriskindlmarket and an 8,000 square foot ice skating rink will open on November 24. The holiday market will have some of the same vendors as the markets at Daley Plaza and Naperville. However, The Park at Wrigley also wanted to feature local vendors, including Taylor Street Soap Co., Candyality, and Decadent Flavor. These vendors are all based in Chicago and will sell only at The Park. The Wrigley market will be open November 24 through December 31 and will have 25 vendors.

River North: The Special Olympics Young Professionals Board is hosting their 7th Annual Thanks for Giving. All proceeds from this evening will benefit Special Olympics Illinois. The event is on Thursday, November 16 from 6 to 8:30 pm at Old Crow Smokehouse (149 W. Kenzie). Appetizers, sweets, red and white wine, and beers from different local breweries will be available throughout the evening. There will also be a raffle, silent auction, and a cork pull with prizes. Purchase tickets here in advance for a discount or at the door for $55.

Lincoln Square: The German International School of Chicago is hosting its 10th Annual Laternenfest and St. Martin’s Parade. Located at the DANK Haus (4740 N. Western Ave.), he event will be held this Saturday, November 11 at 3 pm. In Europe, Laternenfest is a festival where children walk through their villages with lighted lanterns on the eve of St. Martin’s Day. This celebration will begin with lantern making at 3 pm, continue with a lantern parade through Lincoln Square at dusk, and will finish with a brat dinner at DANK Haus at 6 pm. General admission tickets for adults are $13 and $20 for tickets that include dinner. Register now, here!

Evanston: Westminster Place, a Presbyterian Homes community, is hosting a Holiday Bazaar next week. Located at Westminster Place (3200 Grant Street), the event is on Friday November 17 from 10 am to 4 pm. Proceeds from the market will benefit intergenerational programming and other resident selected community causes. The market will feature handcrafted goods including jackets, purses, hand dyed silk scarves, doll clothes (made to measure for American Girl dolls!), and Christmas decorations. There will also be a bake sale with cookies for sale by the pound and a raffle. Lunch is available from 12:30 to 1:30 pm for $12.50 per person. For more information please contact Nancy Ichinose, Director of Community Programs at 847-492-4872 or No RSVP is required, the event is open to the public!


Restaurant Review – M Henry

This week brought me two of my favorite things: brunch and Andersonville. It’s so fun having friends visit from home, because we can take them to our favorite places in Chicago! We love Andersonville and knew it would be the perfect spot for Sunday brunch. We decided to try a new spot M. Henry, located at 5707 N Clark. M Henry is BYOB, so we brought along a bottle of our favorite prosecco. The restaurant offers both half and full carafes of fresh-squeezed orange and grapefruit juice. We ordered a half carafe of grapefruit juice which was absolutely perfect for making our own mimosas. Since M. Henry specializes in breakfast and lunch, there were so many delicious plates to choose from! I decided to try the Fannie’s Killer Fried Egg Sandwich: two pieces of sourdough toast topped with two over-medium eggs, applewood bacon, sliced plum tomatoes, gorgonzola and fresh thyme. It came with a pile of spiced potatoes, which were absolutely delicious. The spice blend was perfect. Without being hyperbolic, they were some of the best breakfast potatoes I’ve ever had. My best friend’s husband ordered the Pumpkin Pecan Apple Flapjacks. He said they tasted like fall and rocked his world!  And finally, my best friend had the M. Henry Comfort Breakfast: two scrambled eggs with gouda, toast with guava jelly, and two sausage links. She raved about the gouda eggs, she said they were fantastic. She also really liked the guava jelly that came with her toast! We will definitely be back to try more tasty brunch dishes!

The cafe at M. Henry is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 7 am to 2:30 pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 8 am to 3 pm. The bakery is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 7 am to 3 pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 8 am to 3 pm. The restaurant is BYOB and accepts reservations for parties of 8 or more people.